Tag Archive | human trafficking

Saved from Slavery

About 15 years ago a dear friend in Hungary — whom I met there in 1984 and with whom I communicate regularly — mentioned that his very attractive teen-age daughter Emma (real name) was eager to come to the United States. He wondered if I could help to get her a job here. I replied that I could not, but warned that she must be careful to follow all government regulations. Like most religious women, I was very aware of  the dangers of trafficking. My friend assumed that my warning was simply stating facts, because soon he wrote, delighted, that Emma had been offered a job in the US, and those inviting her would attend to all the paperwork.  

Very alarmed, I rushed him a reply alerting him to the dangers she was most certainly facing. I  urged him to forbid her this “opportunity” regardless of her reaction. Fortunately he did so, offering her the possibility of more education. I cringe when I think what might have become of her….

Throughout the world today, traffickers use deception, force, threats, and coercion to compel children, teens, and adults into slavery for purposes such as domestic, farm, fishery, and industrial labor; military service; and sexual exploitation. This abhorrent system is the second most profitable worldwide criminal enterprise, estimated to affect between 21 and 40 million — million! — current victims worldwide! According to UN agencies, children constitute nearly 1/3 of the victims. There are more slaves today than at any time in human history! The internet provides traffickers easy home access to potential victims. 

And victims are everywhere. Caused by lack of information, neglect, or desperation, vulnerable humans of all ages, races, sexes, and nationality are trapped in this grotesque system. Flattery and offers of fame, food, money, jobs, and security can be tempting. Sadly, unprotected refugees are easy targets. 

The magnitude of the problem can be overwhelming to the point of paralysis. Put in the correct context of the unity of all creation since its beginning billions of years ago, this self-inflicted cancer and affront to our global unity — to ourselves —  is baffling. Greed blinds some to our intrinsic unity. No one person can single-handedly save everyone, but I believe my experience proves that the “little” actions of many will make the difference as we contribute to the evolution of a planet that makes trafficking obsolete. 

Here are some suggestions:

. Focus on one person at a time, remember how closely we are bound to each brother and sister. For example, pray for one victim enslaved near you. (February 8 is the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of victims of modern slavery and human trafficking, a good day to join with others to pray for those affected by the crimes of modern slavery and the people that volunteer and work to eradicate this crime.)

. Never underestimate the power of awareness. I helped Emma simply by being alert to danger. 

. Talk to children, young people, and adults about safety measures such as memorizing important addresses and phone numbers. 

. Learn the signs of human trafficking so that you can recognize and report it. (US Homeland Security.)

. Many countries have hotlines that can be saved and used to report suspected trafficking. Learn yours and save it. (The US National Human Trafficking Resources Hotline is 888-373-7888.)

. Make a donation to an organization fighting human trafficking such as Polaris (polarisproject.org), the organization named for the North Star that enslaved people in the United States used as a guide to navigate their way toward freedom. 

. Contact your local, state, and national elected officials and ask what actions they have taken to stop this humanitarian crisis..

. Check with hotel, motel, trucking, and event organizers to be sure they have procedures in place to prevent trafficking.  Ask to see a copy of the procedures.

. Purchase Fair Trade products.  Buying these products helps prevent trafficking.

And Emma? She accepted her dad’s offer to get more education. She is now happily married, living in France. 


Some readers received this message when I first posted this blog: Moments ago I learned that one of my Nigerian SHCJ sisters, Chizoba Onuora, was kidnapped on Saturday, January 26th, aboard public transport at Abaji, Nigeria. Please pray fervently for her safety and quick release. I shall post updates about her on this blog as I receive them.

I rejoice to add this wonderful news on Sunday afternoon: The [SHCJ headquarters in Rome] has just received word from the sisters in Abuja [Nigeria] that Sr. Chizoba Onuora has been released. Deo Gratias! Continued prayers for Sr. Chizoba and all the African sisters. 

Happy New Year – but not for all

(If you are interested in Lent resources, please see note at the end.)

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. What could be worse than children’s having to anticipate a year of forced labor, forced sex, forced soldiering, lack of freedom, beatings — being totally enslaved and exploited? (Horrible for adults, too, of course.)

Some Relevant Stories

‘It is very easy to trap an indigenous woman compared to a mestizo. First of all, they do not speak Spanish and secondly, as they suffer from poverty due to loss of their land and house in [regional conflicts], they need some employment urgently. So looking at their situation, we promise the parents or husband good employment with shelter for their daughter and wife and provide them with a little money telling them that after their daughter or wife starts work they will send them some money”.  words of a trafficker   [Stop Trafficking 11/17]

After racking up an exorbitant debt [Cambodia] with a loan shark, Kieu’s mother sold her 12-year-old for sex. The desperate mom secured a “certificate of virginity” from a doctor for her daughter and sold the girl to a man who raped her in a hotel for two days. After the ordeal, Kieu was sold to brothels on three occasions and finally escaped to a safe house after learning that her mom planned to send her away for a six-month prostitution stint.  [CNN 2013]

Tessa [U.S.] was sexually abused by her dad for the first time when she was 7. Her drug-addicted mom was too consumed with her own issues to get involved. When Tessa was a sophomore in high school, she met Jared, whom she didn’t know was a pimp. He showered her with gifts and dates, and often reminded her that no one else could possibly love her because she was “damaged.” Jared soon convinced Tessa to sell her body for sex and would attack her and deprive her of food if she did not meet her quota. He kept all of the money she made and forced her to tattoo his name on her neck. Tessa eventually escaped. 

“During the time I was on the street, I went to hospitals, urgent care clinics, women’s health clinics, and private doctors. No one ever asked me anything anytime I ever went to a clinic.” Lauren, survivor

Some Relevant Facts

A $32-billion-a-year industry, human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise, according to the U.S. State Department. An estimated 27 million people are victims of the crime, which involves being forced to perform labor or commercial sex acts.

In the United States, an estimated 100,000 children are in the sex trade, according to ECPAT-USA, a nonprofit that fights the sexual exploitation of children.

Experts say that in Delhi alone, there are an estimated 100,000 girls as young as 12  who are trafficked as domestic workers.

“Whether because of financial desperation, drugs addiction, mental illness, or compulsion from pimps, women often have little choice but to sell their bodies for money. These are not people who can be said to be truly ‘choosing’ a risky line of business.” Supreme Court of Canada 

Some Relevant Dates 

Month of January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month.

January 1st is the World Day of Peace. Pope Francis’ theme is ‘Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in search of Peace.’ Migrating people are often targets for traffickers.

January 7th is the beginning of National Migration Week. 

January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the U.S.

February 8th is the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita (patron saint of those trafficked) and the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking 

Some Relevant Actions 

Keep handy the number 888 373 7888 – National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline – just in case you see anything suspicious. Trafficked persons can be found in the apparel industry, apple orchards, bars, beauty salons, brothels, citrus fields, construction, dairy farms, domestic help, fishing boats, food processing, food trucks, forced commercial sex, hotels, landscaping, lawn care, mines, motels, nail salons, nannies, pornographic production, restaurants, seasonal occupations, strip clubs, truck stops and…

Advocate for international agreements that offer refugee status to displaced people. 

Support agencies working with refugees and offering them legal protection. (Of many, I note one begun by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus: Casa Cornelia Law Center in San Diego (www.casacornelia.org). It offers pro bono legal services to victims of human and civil rights violations in the San Diego area. 

Purchase Fair Trade products, especially if they expand opportunities for displaced persons.

Pray and call attention in prayer and other ways to the connections between human trafficking and climate change, poverty, civil unrest, violence.


Note re. Lent resources: Three group resources — Laudao Si’ Reflection Resource, Creation Covenant (Species and Ecosystems), and Renewing the Face of the Earth (Air) — are available here: https://ecospiritualityresources.com/lent/

Weekend for Trafficking Victims

The last weekend in September — this year Sept. 26-27 — is International Weekend of Prayer and Fasting for Victims of Human Trafficking, be it trafficking for sex, labor (agriculture, textile, domestic, etc.), organs, or child soldiers. 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of this weekend initiated by the Salvation Army and the Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking (IAST). Anyone who believes that all life, all creation, is sacred will want to participate in this global effort of prayer and fasting to relieve this suffering endured by so many.

Although even the concept of human persons being treated as slaves — and worse — is repulsive, it occurs all over the globe, very probably in your area. Children, both boys and girls, are exploited.


2010_0825_child_trafficking_mNumbers of trafficked persons are deceptive for two reasons. For one, accurate numbers are impossible to get — traffickers are not eager to share them and police cannot find them. The other is that numbers tend to be numbing. Learning that the International Labor Organization estimates that almost 21 million people are trafficked each year, or that 4.5 million of those exploited by individuals or enterprises are victims of forced sexual exploitation can be too big to comprehend by mind or heart. (http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/lang–en/index.htm)

Something tangible happens when we read that “two brothers, aged 7 and 10, died in April 2015 in a fire in one of the numerous clandestine garment workshops in Flores, a Buenos Aires neighborhood, where their parents, immigrants from Bolivia, were living and working.” (http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/garment-sweatshops-in-argentina-an-open-secret/) One might not WANT to picture the sweat shops, the fire, and the protection given to exploiters by police in return for bribes, but it is POSSIBLE to do so. Both mind and heart can grasp the death of two innocents, the pain of their parents, and the injustice aggravated by police corruption.

Or that Pariyar, a poor uneducated laborer in Nepal, was tricked into selling his kidney. He needed money, was lied to about what would be removed, was offered large sums (which never came), and so he agreed. He now has a urinary problem, no way to track down the sellers, cannot afford a trip to a doctor, and worries what will happen to his two children if he dies. (http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/26/world/asia/freedom-project-nepals-organ-trail/)

One Major Cause                                                                                                    Pope Francis leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 23. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Oct. 23, 2013) See POPE-AUDIENCE Oct. 23, 2013.

In July, Pope Francis told a meeting of the world’s Mayors that the  state of the environment is directly and intimately linked to the life and wellbeing of humankind. He said huge migratory waves of peoples across the globe are triggered by environmental issues such as

• desertification,
• deforestation,
• drought, and
• floods, which leave people and entire communities without the possibility of seeking a livelihood. Thus – he said – the exodus that takes them into urban centers gives life to human trafficking which brings with it diverse forms of exploitation of women, children and vulnerable people.  

Pope Francis mentions human trafficking three times in Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, always linking this issue with climate change and other results of the  destruction of our common home.

Prayer and Fasting Weekend

The focus on September 26-27, 2015, is on prayer and fasting, two simple actions that any reader of this blog can take to improve this blight on humankind. Uniting globally on the last weekend of September, our intentional and loving prayer and fasting “can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20) But do imagine one of the many victims, and pray/fast/picture his or her release — especially if environmental destruction contributed to his or her plight. Pray and fast that this cause may be mitigated by response to Laudato Si’.

Solutions to human trafficking are many. For actions to reduce trafficking (that include prayer and a prayer service), go to https://ecospiritualityresources.com/2014/12/31/5-ways-to-reduce-human-trafficking/.

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I add very sincere thanks to Jean Schafer, sds, editor of Stop Trafficking! (www.stopenslavement.org) who generously and graciously assisted with this blog and whose monthly newsletter is always a source of valuable information.